What makes a conspiracy theorist and what makes a poet? Could it be the same psychological phenomenon manifesting differently in different minds, in different environments? I suspect that dissociation at a subclinical level, which has been implicated in suggestibility or openness to hypnosis, as well as in credulous belief of paranormal phenomena, also contributes to the creative processes of poetry and other art. Most of us, poet, conspiracy theorist or neither, have likely occasionally experienced mild feelings of unreality during which the world seems dreamlike or hazy: a manifestation of dissociation at subclinical levels.
Thoughts on intersections between poetry and photography, jotted down while sailing down the edge of Megapolis: a photoblog by River River Photography Editor David e Bell.
I was a photographer first, and looking back poetry has always been there filling in the gaps. Perhaps photography has been providing the structure upon which I have created a series of poetic universes.
In my world, photography is reactive, reality bounded, while poetry is reflective, unchained to any particularly reality. The photographer is limited by the physics of light, the limits of his software, and a moment frozen in time. Poetry is timeless, bound only by the texture of language and the poet’s ability to work that texture, to weave images that exist only in the mind.
At the risk of this blog post sounding something like a Dierks Bentley song, I can easily say what I was feeling in this set of poems featured in the fall issue of River River… but what was I thinking? Let me see if I can shoot some holes in the tailgate called editorial process.
My favorite aspect of this group of poems is the way it demands its freedom to demand, in a resonant voice of plaintive enjoyment. Un-untwistable metaphors entertain and delight me more than technique. The singularity of the Mobius strip, the endlessness of a mandala knot, the beginning and ending somehow different because of a slide down the curly slide all begin to describe the effect of these permanently kinked metaphor-strings.
We know we can always look forward to a taste of the macabre from John, a confirmed horror fan and writer who has been published in California Quarterly, Forge, and Diverse Voices Quarterly. John attends River River’s write! in Nyack, a weekly group that shares a writing prompt and a round of readings, in both poetry and prose. We bring you this unedited excerpt dripping fresh gore…
by John Morrison
Henry was frustrated. He wanted to write something down, anything. So he wrote about his frustrating inability to put words to paper. It didn’t help. He threw his pen down on the table, stood up, and grabbed the folding chair he had been sitting on. His knuckles turned white as he lifted the chair and heaved it through the window. The glass erupted outward and rained down on the sidewalk.
In anticipation of our upcoming 6-week workshop, “Step into Revision,” here’s a brief discussion on the topic. And, following typical revision advice (“Show, don’t tell”), our Fiction Editor, Donna Lee Miele, demonstrates the art of clarifying character motivation, improving syntax and word choices, and creating momentum in a scene.
Patience: First Draft and the Revision Persona
In prose or poetry, fiction or personal essay, revision begins in the first draft as the nagging, questioning voice of self-doubt. Most of us begin hearing that voice in the middle of the first paragraph! That voice is your revision persona. As you press forward, make note of that persona-non-grata’s questions and comments in a separate file or notebook. Then ask her to kindly get out of your way. Be determined, but don’t rush your first draft. The first principle of writing, and re-writing, is patience.
A telescopic tour of the poetry featured in our inaugural issue–
A few steps into a poem and you know you’re in trouble. The sudden sweep of imagery or spare sounds, like a current across a shallow river’s-edge, knocks you down into the muddy silt of language. Soggily, you take a seat on a tree stump or bench, and the river poem reveals itself as galaxy pulsing with the competitive gravitational forces of supernovae verbs, dark-matter participles, and adjectives that act like binary star systems.
In “American God,” a sequence of kinetic verbs—strip, tear, attack, pull, throw, whisper—leads to shear, which explodes in multiple dimensions of suggested meaning. Shear the god’s beard, and the word suggests its homophone, sheer, which can mean diaphanous (as a fabric) or unmitigated (for emphasis) or precipitous (as a cliff).
As we fly off with the congealing debris of supernova elements, the poems “jumper” and “The Gargoyle” swallow us into dark, energetic descriptors. In “jumper,” the sequence builds from trembling, evolved, ascended, and aimed into pushed, compressed, distorted, and discarded. “The Gargoyle” is painted almost entirely in participles, until the end of the poem where watching unexpectedly twists up an actual verb with a verbal, or what happens when dark matter meets light.
Fields of oppositional forces pulse with nodes of intensity alternating with nodes of tranquility, and “42nd St-Times Square Subway” offers exactly that: a high-voltage, alternating-current experience. The binary sensibility of adjectives within a line’s-length of each other—concrete/natural, filthy/electric, muted/loud—pushes and pulls us aboard the train and its subterranean conduits. In “Wanting to Be,” the uncoupling of arid/swamp and small/long occurs because of the non-binary fallow/alluvial. Where we land—in muck or dreams—depends on the stream of the poem and how wet with starlight our boots have gotten.
Welcome—we’re very excited to showcase new writing at River River: a new, independent, literary journal in the lower Hudson Valley. It’s been nearly one year since we started offering free writing groups and community workshops in Rockland County, New York. We hope you enjoy this curated space for poetry, short prose, and photography as much as we loved putting it together. We also hope to see you at local events, workshops, readings, open mic evenings, slams, and more, which you can find out about on the Rockland Poetry Calendar here. Keep in touch with us by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our email list here. Thanks for reading!